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'Refund Scottish bedroom tax victims,' MPs urge

Holyrood 'has the powers and the money' to pay back all affected tenants

A leading group of MPs will press the Scottish and Westminster governments on full refunds of bedroom tax for all tenants in Scotland and not just those in arrears.

Their decision follows First Minister Alex Salmond pledge last week to “mitigate” the hated charge the north of the border.

Westminster Scottish affairs committee chairman Ian Davidson said: “Now that it is absolutely clear that the Scottish government has both the powers and the money to effectively abolish the bedroom tax in Scotland we want to get on with discussing how best this can be done.” 

The committee held open sessions Falkirk and Livingston yesterday to hear from local tenants activists, social housing landlords and council experts on practical ways to implement the promise to mitigate the bedroom tax.

West Lothian tenants’ activist Alison Kerr told the committee hearing in Livingston: “People are making stark choices between fuel, food and rent on a day in day out basis.

“I want to know why if the Scottish government had the powers and the funding all along to deal with this do we have thousands of people in this situation now.”

West Lothian Council finance chief Donald Forrest said his authority tried to engage with all tenants to encourage them to apply for Discretionary Housing Benefits.

Around 1,350 had received some assistance in the last year but that around 600 remained in arrears.

Sandy Young, a manager with Almond Housing in West Lothian told the committee there would have to be some form of refund for all.

“Some people have scrimped and saved and borrowed to pay the bedroom tax and try to avoid going in arrears. It would not be fair if they were penalised.”

Andy Ashcroft of Glasgow Housing Association agreed that refunds should be be provided for all bedroom tax costs, not just arrears.

“The bedroom tax has been an unmitigated disaster. It has penalised those who are most needy in society.”

Mr Davidson told the Morning Star the committee had a number of further evidence gathering sessions planned and will report quickly to government with recommendations.

“We are particularly interested to explore how all those tenants who have made sacrifices or borrowed to meet the extra expense of the bedroom tax can have their money refunded,” he said.

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